24th September 2000

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Issue based voting comes a cropper

In the first wave of opinion polls conducted prior to the general election, respondents were asked to comment on the controversial draft constitution presented by the ruling People's Alliance (PA) government image

The series of opinion polls has been conducted by ORG-MARG SMART, a leading market and economic research firm in Sri Lanka. The objective was to understand the dynamics of perceptions and attitudes towards macro issues and to increase the awareness and acceptance of polling in the country. The readers are reminded of the margins of error and the possible favourable bias towards the ruling party when coming to conclusions based on the results.

The poll was conducted among an island wide sample of 1,299 respondents, covering the 17 districts outside the north and east, to represent the entire voting population of the country. The fieldwork was conducted from August 30 September 7..

imageInitially respondents were asked to comment on the constitution. Surprisingly 11 p. c. of the respondents had never heard of a draft constitution. Out of the 89 p.c. who were aware of the constitution, 33 p. c. did not know its contents and another 56 p. c. had a very limited knowledge about the proposed changes.

The respondents were asked to what extent they agree with some of the proposed changes in the constitution. A major area of disagreement was the appointment of two vice presidents from the minorities. However, except for the proposed decentralisation of police powers and passing of the ownership of state lands to regional councils, respondents favour the formation of regional high courts and the decentralisation of health and education.image

About one third of the respondents were of the opinion that the majority in parliament and the President should be from the same party. However, 29 p. c. thought otherwise.

According to 59 p. c. of the respondents a national government would suit Sri Lanka but the rest preferred the existing system. While 60 p. c. of the respondents were against the executive presidency, 40 p. c. were for it.

imageThe vote base for the United National Party (UNP) remains at almost 47 p. c. whereas it is only 32 p. c. for the People's Alliance (PA). Interestingly most of the voters seem to vote as a habit, with issue based voting coming as a distant choice.

Most people seem to vote for the UNP because they think the party can tackle the country's problems effectively. Those who vote for the PA do so because of its leadership qualities. More results of the opinion poll will be published next week.

imageORG-MARG SMART is an independent private market and economic agency undertaking research mainly in the areas of consumer goods and services. It is the country's largest employer of full-time market research staff and works for a multitude of clients both in the private and public sectors here and abroad. It is a Dutch, Indian and Sri Lankan joint venture.

Readers who wish to know the details of the opinion polls conducted prior to the presidential election in 1999 may visit the web site at

Relief for flood victims as waters recede

Heavy rains experienced in the past week has left thousands homeless in the Galle and Matara districts while there is an imminent threat of floods in some of the low lying areas of the Gampaha district.

More than 17,000 families have been affected in the Southern Province with many people being forced to move into government run shelters, Social Services Ministry Secretary W.P.W.Weeraward-hana said.

He said the government had allocated one million rupees to each of the district secretariats in the areas affected by floods to provide people with dry rations or cooked meals and other basic requirements.

"The waters are now receding. Once people start moving back into their homes, we will provide them with assistance to rebuild their houses if there had been any damage," he said.

Mr. Weeraward-hana said a maximum of Rs. 10,000 will be given to each family for building purposes depending on the scale of damage they had suffered.

A spokesman for the Gampaha Divisional Secretariat said that about 1,500 families had been affected by the heavy rains, mainly in the low lying areas around Kelaniya, Peliyagoda, Muturajawela and Ja-ela.

He said only a few people had moved into shelters but all families affected were being provided food parcels by the Social Services Department.

Arrangements will be made to give dry rations if necessary, he said.

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